Dutch Caribbean: Islands Mark 500th Anniversary of Discovery

The Dutch islands of Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao have a special date on their calendars this year -- the quincentennial of their discovery by Amerigo Vespucci in 1499. Following are just some of the planned events; in many cases venues have yet to be selected. For more information, agents can call the tourist boards of the pertinent island (see article below).

Curacaoans plan a host of activities and events to honor this 500th anniversary. The highlight of the Curacao 500 program, Sail Curacao 500, will celebrate the island's seafaring history. To be held Oct. 28 through 31, the event will feature tall ships from around the world that will be invited to join the fleet in Curacao. Many of these ships are expected to hail from Unesco world heritage sites.

Meanwhile, on land, the Laman Chiki multicultural festival will include music, folkloric dances, games and educational events in Willemstad. The entire month of August has been designated Afro-Caribbean Heritage Month, and highlights will include lectures by historians and local experts on African influences on the island, along with guided tours of landmarks and folkloric presentations. On Sept. 8, islanders will celebrate World Heritage Day, and on Sept. 10 and 11, the island will host a Modern Dance Festival. The works of contemporary Antillean and Aruban artists will be displayed Oct. 23 to Nov. 21 in a show called Arte 99.

Other themed events, such as a Curacao Television and Film Festival, a Ka'i Orgel Festival featuring music made from hand-turned organs, an Antillean music festival and a Quincentennial Expo, also are on the drawing board. Bonaire tourism executives are planning events to laud the year of Vespucci's discovery, according to a Tourism Corporation Bonaire spokeswoman. The 500th anniversary of the island's debut on the world map will be marked on Bonaire Day, held each year on Sept. 6, a legal holiday.

Events are planned for Wilhelmina Park and across the island. At the park, folkloric dancing, music, art and local food will be a highlight, as government officials and community members share stories of Bonairean culture and customs.

Cultural events will be included in the opening and closing ceremonies of the Third Annual Bonaire Dive Festival, held from Nov. 6 to 13. A Taste of Bonaire, an opening ceremony featuring Bonairean food and music will begin the festival, and parties and evening events will take place during the week. An Underwater Clean-Up Seminar and Dive is a highlight of the festival, and underwater photography seminars and workshops will be offered as well.

Aruba events are still in the planning stages.

Dutch Caribbean: Destination Information

Agents selling the Dutch Caribbean can contact the following island tourist boards for information, advice and, in most cases, promotional materials.


The Aruba Tourism Authority has five offices in North America.

Atlanta: 199 14th St. N.E., Suite 2008, Atlanta 33039-3688; (404) 892-7822

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.: 1 Financial Plaza, Suite 136, Fort Lauderdale 33394;
(954) 767-6477

Houston: 12707 North Freeway, Suite 138, Houston 77060-1234; (713) 872-7822

Toronto: 86 Bloor St. W., Suite 204, Toronto, Ontario, M5S 1M5; (416) 975-1950

Weehawken, N.J.: 1000 Harbor Blvd., Ground Level, Weehawken 07087; (201) 330-0800

U.S. toll-free, (800) TO-ARUBA; in Canada, (800) 268-3042; www.interknowledge.com/aruba


Tourism Corporation Bonaire is represented in the U.S. by Adams Unlimited, 10 Rockefeller Plaza, Suite 900, New York 10020; (800) U-Bonair; fax (212) 956-5913; www.bonaire.org


Curacao Tourist Board, 475 Park Ave. S., Suite 2000, New York 10016; (800) 270-3350; fax (212) 683-9337; www.interknowledge.com/curacao; e-mail [email protected]


Saba Tourist Office, Box 6233, Boca Raton, Fla. 33427; (561) 394-8580; (800) 722-2394; fax (561) 488-4294; www.turq.com/saba; e-mail [email protected]

St. Eustatius

St. Eustatius Tourist Office, Box 6233, Boca Raton, Fla. 33427; (561) 394-8580; (800) 722-2394; fax (561) 488-4294; www.turq.com/statia; e-mail [email protected]

St. Maarten

St. Maarten Tourism Bureau, 675 Third Ave., Suite 1806, New York 10017; (212) 953-2084; fax (212) 953-2145, (800) ST-MAARTEN; www.st-maarten.com

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